The Death of a Salesman: Volunteer Work

Multiethnic raised hands and writing volunteer

Who wants to build a proposal that nobody wants?   OH! OH!  ME!  PICK ME PLEASE!

Have you ever told your sales manager you felt like you were “spinning your wheels?”

Do you feel like you go through stretches where you’re doing lots of work, but nothing seems to pan out?

Let’s end that together today.

In the life of a straight commission salesperson, time is money.

If you have a sound sales philosophy, during the hours of 8am-5pm you likely spend as much time engaging customers as you possibly can.

So how do you take your productivity to the next level if you are already making as many sales calls as you can per day?  Your calendar is full!  How do you squeeze the maximum results from your efforts?

I have 2 simple rules for deciding whether you’re going to do real productive work, or spin your wheels.

1.) The only things you should ever work on are things your customer actually WANTS.

2.) Your customer agrees to proceed with the next step if you do the work.

Think about the last 2-3 weeks…however far back you need to go to remember sitting with someone on an early stage sales call (#1 or #2) in your sales process.

Did you volunteer to put anything together for your contact?  A proposal?  A quote?  An ROI calculation?

Now for the really critical question:  Was the offer to “put something together” agreed to with any enthusiasm on their part?  Did you walk them down the path to the point where they place the order because of the work you did?

Are they agreeing to do ANYTHING with the proposal you’re about to spend 30 minutes putting together?  Or are they agreeing to you doing some work because its the fastest way to get you out of their building?

It’s an epidemic.  Salespeople everywhere are volunteering to perform a (potentially tedious) task with NO GUARANTEE of a payoff for doing the work.  They think its just part of the numbers game.  Put together enough quotes and eventually you’ll take an order.

I won’t dispute that this could provide a small return on your time, but I do believe my 2 rules provide a much greater return.

So how do you generate opportunities where the customer wants to give you their business?   Hint: Don’t tell them how much you’d “appreciate an opportunity” 🙂

The Wrong Way: You lead with your products, offer savings, and volunteer a proposal early in the game.

“Hi how you doing!  I’m from XYZ Company.  We’re amazing and we’ve been in business for over 100 years…so with that kind of value, you can see we’re good at bringing value.”

“Gee, you sure do look like you buy a lot of (X item).”

“Can I get you a quote on (X item) and see if we can save you guys some money?”

This is what 90% of people in the sales game do all day every day.  Any time you do something the vast majority of salespeople tend to do…you get lumped in with all those terrible salespeople.

These people are generally peddlers of price, and buyers do not respect them.   So even if you have a secret master plan to create true value down the road or not, the customer will only ever see you as another run of the mill, price slinging salesperson.

Human beings tend to form long term opinions with limited short term data.  This is why the first impression is such a powerful, well known concept.   People tend to project that things will be the same over the long term based on how they are at the beginning.  So don’t be like everyone else at the beginning.

The Right Way: You form a business relationship based on proactive value deposits.

This is a good improvement from option #1.  This is where you can pitch what you do effectively enough to gain a meeting with the decision maker.  You use your time wisely and learn about their business, uncover known and unknown needs, and they buy in to your actual sales process before you ever try to sell them a product.  You make deposits and build sufficient trust before you ever think of making a withdrawal.

In the sales process that I teach, my team members consistently visit their customers and prospects and bring targeted, new ideas that upgrade or enhance our customer’s existing operations.   We demonstrate a level of expertise around the group of products we sell.  This ends up forming a relationship based on business credibility and trust.

Once this type of trust is established and you really can feel the connection with a customer, they don’t see you as a typical salesperson anymore.

At this stage(usually reached 2-3 interactions into the relationship), it’s a world of difference to tell them you’d like to put together an initial proposal for them, and (here is the kicker) GAUGE THEIR INTEREST to your “proposal proposal” before you ever do any work.

If there isn’t a very positive response to our offer, we hold off for a bit, and build more trust.

The Master Plan: You form a relationship, provide enough insight to prove you are insanely valuable, and then THEY END UP ASKING YOU FIRST if you can help with a particular challenge.

When this happens, the salesperson is truly on point.  They’ve sold the customer on a process that works for everyone.  They deliver valuable insights to the customer in a way that isn’t intrusive.

The customer can clearly see the salesperson’s ability to solve problems and begins to point the salesperson to the places they know they need improvement, and they also engage in conversations where mutual discovery takes place.

They start asking questions like, “Hey we’ve been having some issues with X.  Do you know how we could handle that?”

“Hey we were thinking of putting in a new inventory control system.  Are you guys able to help us design that?”

This type of question is the opening line of your embossed invitation to take over the account.  If you can locate, supply, and help make their use of your provided solution seamless, the business will be yours.

If this happens often enough, and you’re knocking it out of the park each time, there will come a time in the near future where they wonder how they ever lived without you.

You will have become “their guy.”  They will reject cold callers as a standard practice because they know there isn’t anyone better than you.

What would happen to your business if you stopped being a person that offered “savings” and started working to become a professional that people looked to for guidance and support in running their operation better?

Save the volunteer work for your community, not your sales career.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.